One of the most anticipated movies of the 2013 summer season is the Baz Luhrmann helmed “The Great Gatsby.” The film carries some massive star power, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, all characters who have been enjoyed by generations of readers of the 1925 novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The choice of Daisy was a difficult one for Luhrmann, and he considered a wide variety of young Hollywood starlets before the part was given to Mulligan. The reason behind the widespread search was to find the perfect fit for the complicated character who serves as the focal point for the film. Many who have seen her in the part have determined that Luhrmann made exactly the right choice. Mulligan has managed to bring the manipulative and naive character to life on the screen.
Daisy is an extremely well-developed character with enough depth to give an experienced actress like Mulligan plenty to work with. The character is the epitome of the wealthy trophy wife. She lives an extraordinarily wealthy lifestyle filled with beautiful clothes and expensive jewels. Unfortunately, she’s also highly neglected by her husband Tom, played by Joel Edgerton, who leaves his beautiful wife wandering through their mansion largely ignored. Her isolation is somewhat self-inflicted, though, as she hands her daughter’s raising over to the servants, further detaching herself from family life.
Her world isn’t completely empty though, as she manages to snag the attention of the wealthy Jay Gatsby, a lifelong friend and early love interest who is willing to spend a fortune to keep her happy. Gatsby constructs a fantasy world for Daisy to live in, building a lavish mansion and throwing party after party to keep her entertained. The result is a love triangle between Daisy, her husband Tom, and the dashing Gatsby. Added to the mix are Tom’s barely concealed dalliances with his mistress.
As the two men in her life play tug-of-war with Daisy in the middle, she is asked to make the choice between Gatsby, whom she has loved throughout her life, or Tom, to whom she feels she owes her loyalty. Each of the men attempts to convince Daisy that she never loved the other, and indecisive Daisy simply goes with the flow, leaving Gatsby to remain with her husband and attempt to preserve her lonely lifestyle.
The character of Daisy is locked tightly into the 1920s plotline. She’s more acted upon by the events around her than she is able to take control of her life and make her own decisions. She’s vulnerable, and Mulligan is tasked with bringing that vulnerability to the forefront in every scene. The actress manages to do so with a skill that further entrenches her into the ranks of the top acting talent in Hollywood.
Mulligan is the perfect physical fit for Daisy. From the moment she steps into a scene, she’s ethereally beautiful, carrying off the 1920s look with aplomb. From the hairstyle to the clothing to the jewelry she wears with ease, Mulligan manages to shine. She fills the screen despite her small stature, perhaps even eclipsing the leading men of the film. As for Daisy’s personality, Mulligan manages to hit the mark just as well.
For modern audiences, the character of Daisy is often seen with distaste, being little more than a prize to be won by the two men in her life. Mulligan, however, manages to play upon the vulnerable nature of the character to create a woman whom the audience actually cares about. Viewers often find themselves rooting for Daisy despite her flightiness, just wishing that she would make a decisive move toward either Gatsby or Tom and take some control over her life. Even though Daisy ultimately fails to do so, the desire to be in her corner remains to the end, thanks in large part to Mulligan’s excellent portrayal.
Luhrmann sets the tone well for “The Great Gatsby,” (trailer here) from the sets to the pace of the film. DiCaprio plays Gatsby as larger than life, showing the audience precisely why Daisy would be sucked into his romantic web. The real star of the film, though, is Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Her willingness to dive into the depths of the character and pull out her most likable features makes the character compelling to audiences. Mulligan manages to break through the surface simplicity of Daisy, creating a character who’s not only enjoyable to watch but memorable long after viewing as well.